Announcements, October 31

THIS WEEK…

All Saints’ Day, Sunday, Nov. 3: We will celebrate this holy day with an opportunity to remember the faithful departed; renewal of our baptismal vows; and, at our 10am service, a kids’ saint procession.

Birthday and Anniversary blessings and Healing Prayers will be given this Sunday, November 3, as is our custom on the first Sunday of the month.

MOM Special Offering, Sunday, November 3: On Sunday, half the cash in our offering plate and any designated checks will be given to Middleton Outreach Ministry’s food pantry. Here are the current top-ten, most needed items: Canned Tomatoes (all types), Baking Supplies (all types), Spices, Herbs, Salt and Pepper, Vinegar (all types), Canned Salmon, Sardines, Mustard and Ketchup, Whole Grains (Barley, Quinoa, Oats,etc.), Heart Healthy Cooking Oil, Hair Care Products for People of Color, Laundry Detergent (Fragrance Free) . Thank you for your generous support!

Remembrance Altar: Consider bringing in a token of one of those saints whom you remember with love and respect. Our Remembrance Altar this year will include a place to hang pictures or notes, and a table where you may place a photo or other memento. Please don’t bring in anything precious or irreplaceable. Bring in items on All Saints Day or anytime in November. On Sunday, November 24, we will commend these faithful departed to Christ our King.

Bite Size Climate, Sunday, November 3, 11:50 – 12:10: Many of us are fearful and sad about climate change and its many impacts.  An important first step towards change is to be informed citizens who understand the issue and can talk about it with others – since we’ll all need to work together for change. This time, we’ll look at myths about climate change. Bite-Sized Climate is a time for adults, kids and youth to spend 20 minutes (we promise!) learning and talking together.  Get a snack at coffee hour, then gather in the meeting room! Our next planned date is December 1st, for a super-sciencey look at climate models.

Buildings & Grounds Meeting, Monday, November 4, 7pm: All interested folks are invited to Buildings & Grounds meetings (usually on first Mondays). We meet to discuss needs and plans, and to share some small tasks around the buildings.

Annual Giving Campaign: We are currently collecting pledge cards from members, to help us plan our church’s 2020 budget. If your household has not yet picked up a pledge packet or received one in the mail, pick up a blank packet at church or contact the office (608-238-2781, ). We hope to have all pledges gathered by Sunday, November 17! Need to check last year’s pledge? As you consider your pledge for 2020, if it would help you to know what you pledged last year, contact the office (see above) and Ann will get back to you!

Giving Campaign Thank-You Notes: Helpers Wanted! In our Giving Campaign survey earlier this fall, several folks said they’d like to help write thank-you notes to those who make annual budgets. Now it’s time to begin! If you would like to help with this ministry of thank-you notes, talk to Rev. Miranda or email her. (Pledge amounts are always kept confidential!)

THE WEEKS AHEAD…

Spirituality of Parenting Lunch, Sunday, November 10, 11:30am: All who seek meaning in the journey of parenthood (at any age or stage) are welcome to come for food and conversation. Child care and a simple meal provided.

“Responding to Hate,” Tuesday, November 12, 7pm, at the Crossing (1127 University Ave.): We live in a time of increasing division and expression of hate. How do we respond? How do we ‘love our enemies’? Pardeep’s father Satwant Singh Kaleka was murdered by a white supremacist along with five others when their place of worship in was attacked on August 5 2012 in Milwaukee. The shooter was a member of the neo-Nazi skinhead gang Arno had helped to found in 1989. Single parenthood, love for his daughter, and the forgiveness shown by people he once hated helped to change Arno’s world, bringing love for diversity and gratitude for all life after he left hate groups in 1994. Come listen to Pardeep and Arno talk about their friendship and moving past hate. The talk is open to everyone. St. Dunstan’s is proud to co-sponsor this important event.

Madison-Area Julian Gathering, Wednesday, November 13, 1:00 – 2:45 PM: We welcome everyone who is interested in learning more about contemplative spirituality in the Christian tradition.  We meet the second Wednesday of the month for a period of contemplative prayer, after which we discuss a reading from Julian of Norwich, a 14th Century English mystic who has been called “a theologian for our time.”  We would love to have you join us.  If you have questions, contact Susan Fiore, ObJN.

Saturday Book Club, November 16, 2019 at 10 am: This month’s book is Manhattan Beach by Jenifer Egan. Getting a hard copy of the book: The Madison Central Library (next door to the Overture Center) has a Book Club section – located on the western end of the second floor. This section contains multiple copies of selected books. The next meeting’s book – Manhattan Beach – is available in this section. If you check it out at the main desk and say it is a Book Club book, they can also give you an extended time to read it.

Piece Be with You! Fall Giving Campaign Celebration Pie Brunch, November 24, 9:00am: Please join us for a festive, all-parish potluck brunch celebrating our prayers, hopes, and financial pledges for our parish life in the coming year. We will enjoy fellowship, delicious pies, quiches, and other offerings. Look for a signup soon, to sign up and bring your favorite pie or quiche. (Pre-cut pies with labeled pie servers appreciated!) Thank you!

Our annual Black Friday Craft-In, a free all-ages crafting and gift-making event that we open to the wider community, will be Friday, November 29, from 1 – 4pm. If you’d like to help out with hospitality, with a craft station of your own, or as a helper at somebody else’s station, sign up in the Gathering Area or email Rev. Miranda!

Altar Flowers: Fall dates available – sign up at church or by email! Honor a loved one or a special event with altar flowers on a special date! At church, sign up on the clipboard under the big calendar in the Gathering Area, and place a check or cash in an envelope labeled “Flowers” in the offering plate. From home, email office@stdunstans.com with your preferred date and dedication, and make your gift online at donate.stdunstans.com. Thank you for beautifying our worship space!

Announcements, October 24

THIS WEEK…

Ladies’ Night Out, Friday, October 25, 6pm: Come join us for good food and good conversation among women of all ages from St. Dunstan’s. This month we will meet at Los Gemelos Restaurant at 6713 Odana Road, Madison. On Odana, turn into the parking area immediately west of the paint store, in the area with the Indian restaurant with the blue awning. Then, drive to the back of the building where the sign says Los Gemelos grocery and restaurant. It sounds complicated, but it really isn’t! For more information, please contact Kathy Whitt.

Last Sunday All-Ages Worship, Sunday, October 27, 10am: Our last Sunday worship is intended especially to help kids (and grownups who are new to our pattern of worship) to engage and participate fully. NOTE: Our 8am service always follows our regular order of worship.

Fall Clean-Up, Sunday, Oct. 27, 11:30 – 1:00pm: Wear your work clothes to church and stay after the 10am service for a simple lunch (with an overview of tasks to complete while we’re eating), followed by time to work on our grounds. We’ll wrap up by 1:00pm, but you can leave anytime you’ve completed your tasks.

Birthday and Anniversary Blessings and Healing Prayers will be given next Sunday, November 3, as is our custom on the first Sunday of the month.

Cookie Church, 6 – 7pm on Sunday Nights: Cookie Church is simple bedtime church. It is child-centered but not just for kids; we find that youth and grownups like it too! We will share singing, story, Eucharist, and a snack. (Yes, there will be cookies.) We end with bedtime prayers and it’s OK to come in your pajamas! Cookie Church is planned for Sundays in October and November. Sign up in the Gathering Area if you’d like to make a batch of cookies for us one week. We ask for at least 20 cookies, and it’s OK to drop them off Sunday morning (clearly labeled!)

Practicing Holy Living, Fall 2019: A few years ago, St. Dunstan’s identified seven core practices by which we live out our faith in daily life: Welcoming, Abiding, Wondering, Proclaiming, Turning, Reconciling, and Making. (Read more by picking up a leaflet in the Gathering Area!) This autumn, we’re meeting some saints – those who loved and fought, lived and died for the Lord they loved and knew – who embodied each of these practices. We’ll continue on October 27 with Nicholas Ferrar and the practice of Making. Come at 9am to talk about the practice of Making in our lives!

Annual Giving Campaign: We are currently collecting pledge cards from members, to help us plan our church’s 2020 budget. If your household has not yet picked up a pledge packet or received one in the mail, pick up a blank packet at church or contact the office (608-238-2781, ). We hope to have all pledges gathered by Sunday, November 17! Need to check last year’s pledge? As you consider your pledge for 2020, if it would help you to know what you pledged last year, contact the office (see above) and Ann will get back to you!

Giving Campaign Thank-You Notes: Helpers Wanted! In our Giving Campaign survey earlier this fall, several folks said they’d like to help write thank-you notes to those who make annual budgets. Now it’s time to begin! If you would like to help with this ministry of thank-you notes, talk to Rev. Miranda or email her.

THE WEEKS AHEAD…

All Saints’ Day, Sunday, Nov. 3: We will celebrate this holy day with an opportunity to remember the faithful departed; renewal of our baptismal vows; and, at our 10am service, a kids’ saint procession.

Remembrance Altar: Consider bringing in a token of one of those saints whom you remember with love and respect. Our Remembrance Altar this year will include a place to hang pictures or notes, and a table where you may place a photo or other memento. Please don’t bring in anything precious or irreplaceable. Bring in items on All Saints Day or anytime in November. On Sunday, November 24, we will commend these faithful departed to Christ our King.

Bite Size Climate, Sunday, November 3, 11:50 – 12:10: Many of us are fearful and sad about climate change and its many impacts.  An important first step towards change is to be informed citizens who understand the issue and can talk about it with others – since we’ll all need to work together for change. This time, we’ll look at myths about climate change. Bite-Sized Climate is a time for adults, kids and youth to spend 20 minutes (we promise!) learning and talking together.  Get a snack at coffee hour, then gather in the meeting room! Our next planned date is December 1st, for a super-sciencey look at climate models.

Buildings & Grounds Meeting, Monday, November 4, 7pm: All interested folks are invited to Buildings & Grounds meetings (usually on first Mondays). We meet to discuss needs and plans, and to share some small tasks around the buildings.

Spirituality of Parenting Lunch, Sunday, November 10, 11:30am: All who seek meaning in the journey of parenthood (at any age or stage) are welcome to come for food and conversation. Child care and a simple meal provided.

“Responding to Hate,” Tuesday, November 12, 7pm, at the Crossing (1127 University Ave.): We live in a time of increasing division and expression of hate. How do we respond? How do we ‘love our enemies’? Pardeep’s father Satwant Singh Kaleka was murdered by a white supremacist along with five others when their place of worship in was attacked on August 5 2012 in Milwaukee. The shooter was a member of the neo-Nazi skinhead gang Arno had helped to found in 1989. Single parenthood, love for his daughter, and the forgiveness shown by people he once hated helped to change Arno’s world, bringing love for diversity and gratitude for all life after he left hate groups in 1994. Come listen to Pardeep and Arno talk about their friendship and moving past hate. The talk is open to everyone. St. Dunstan’s is proud to co-sponsor this important event.

Madison-Area Julian Gathering, Wednesday, November 13, 1:00 – 2:45 PM: We welcome everyone who is interested in learning more about contemplative spirituality in the Christian tradition.  We meet the second Wednesday of the month for a period of contemplative prayer, after which we discuss a reading from Julian of Norwich, a 14th Century English mystic who has been called “a theologian for our time.”  We would love to have you join us.  If you have questions, contact Susan Fiore, ObJN.

Saturday Book Club, November 16, 2019 at 10 am: This month’s book is Manhattan Beach by Jenifer Egan. Getting a hard copy of the book: The Madison Central Library (next door to the Overture Center) has a Book Club section – located on the western end of the second floor. This section contains multiple copies of selected books. The next meeting’s book – Manhattan Beach – is available in this section. If you check it out at the main desk and say it is a Book Club book, they can also give you an extended time to read it.

Piece Be with You! Fall Giving Campaign Celebration Pie Brunch, November 24, 9:00am: Please join us for a festive, all-parish potluck brunch celebrating our prayers, hopes, and financial pledges for our parish life in the coming year. We will enjoy fellowship, delicious pies, quiches, and other offerings. Look for a signup soon, to sign up and bring your favorite pie or quiche. (Precut pies with labeled pie servers appreciated!) Thank you!

Our annual Black Friday Craft-In, a free all-ages crafting and gift-making event that we open to the wider community, will be Friday, November 29, from 1 – 4pm. If you’d like to help out with hospitality, with a craft station of your own, or as a helper at somebody else’s station, sign up in the Gathering Area or email Rev. Miranda!

Looking for Coffee Hosts! Since our kitchen is ready to use again, there are signup sheets out for coffee hour beginning on October 20th. Consider being a coffee host and talk with Janet Bybee for more information.

Altar Flowers: Fall dates available – sign up at church or by email! Honor a loved one or a special event with altar flowers on a special date! At church, sign up on the clipboard under the big calendar in the Gathering Area, and place a check or cash in an envelope labeled “Flowers” in the offering plate. From home, email office@stdunstans.com with your preferred date and dedication, and make your gift online at donate.stdunstans.com. Thank you for beautifying our worship space!

Sermon, Oct. 20

Over the past few weeks, we’ve met a saint every Sunday… I mean, in addition to the saints who sit beside you in the pews; these are saints who have already gone on ahead into the nearer presence of God. Each saint’s life and witness, the particular way they shined God’s light in their time and place, reminds us to strive to practice one of the seven Discipleship Practices we discerned together, a few years ago. Blessed Pauli calls us to radical welcome, blessed Julian inspires us to faithful abiding, blessed Richard invites us to holy wondering, blessed Francis urges us to hopeful reconciling, blessed Harriet models courageous proclaiming. 

The practice that comes to us today is the practice of Turning. This is a practice that needs a little explaining; but it might just be the most important one. Here’s some of what we said about it in the document about our practices we developed back in 2016: “We follow the teaching of Jesus Christ by being open to repentance, transformation, and call. The word turning springs from the New Testament word “metanoia,” meaning a change of mind and heart that bears fruit in a changed life… We turn by becoming followers of Jesus, whether that is the ongoing work of a lifetime, the shattering transformation of a moment, or some of each…  We turn by forgiving others, and by recognizing our own need to repent, seek forgiveness and make amends. We turn back towards God when we have turned away, re-orienting ourselves towards what is most important, true, and life-giving…We turn by allowing ourselves to be shaped and guided by grace; by being attentive to the voice of the Spirit, in things great and small… We turn.. by seeking God’s direction in our lives; and by daring to respond to God’s call into new endeavors.” 

I wish I could tell you that I carefully matched saints and practices with the lectionary texts, in planning this out – but I didn’t. However, I got lucky with our 2 Timothy text. Second Timothy is one of two letters written in the name of the apostle Paul, and addressed to his younger friend and fellow church leader, Timothy. Modern Bible scholarship leans toward the opinion that Paul didn’t actually write these letters; they may have been written a few decades after his death, by someone familiar with his life and writings – and perhaps facing a similar situation: imprisoned for his faith, and expecting execution. If this author isn’t Paul, he’s using this frame – Paul writing to Timothy – as a way to urge the church leaders of his time, facing rising persecution and waning interest in Christianity, to hold fast to what they have received and not lose faith. 

“Stay the course” seems like the opposite of  “Turn”. But think about what staying the course – staying faithful to our deepest values and best intentions – actually looks like in practice. Our days and our years are full of course corrections, most tiny, some large, to get back to our intended track: the way we mean to treat our family, friends, neighbors. The way we mean to use our financial resources or our time. The way we mean to care for our bodies, minds, and spirits. The way we mean to participate in the public life of our community and nation. To use a familiar image, think about navigation software: We take wrong turns on a regular basis – and our conscience, God working deep inside us to help us be true to our best intentions, says “Recalculating,” and shows us how we can return to the route. 

The author of 2 Timothy is concerned that younger leaders in the church are becoming discouraged and overwhelmed. You don’t write someone a letter reminding them to keep the faith unless you fear they’re in real danger of walking away. So he urges: Even in the face of suffering, keep using the inner compass of your faith, God’s truth written on your heart, to turn towards true north, trusting in and witnessing to God’s love made known to us in Jesus Christ. 

Turning … metanoia. A change of mind and heart that bears fruit in a changed life.

This is Sophie Scholl. Sophie was born in 1921, in the German city of Forchtenberg. She was raised in the Lutheran church, along with five brothers and sisters – a lively, loving, intellectual family. When Sophie was 11 or 12, Hitler and his Nazi Party began to rise in Germany. At first it was exciting, especially for the children and youth. There was a new sense of hope and pride for their country. Kids could join clubs to celebrate being German. Sophie joined one, and even became a leader – though she was a little troubled that her Jewish friend couldn’t join too. 

Sophie’s father, a sincere Christian and a pacifist, had concerns right from the start; but he would not oppose rising tyranny by being a tyrant. He let his children find their own way – but it was difficult. One evening on a family walk he turned to them and said, “All I want is for you to walk straight and free through life, even when it’s hard.” 

https://timeline.com/sophie-scholl-white-rose-guillotine-6b3901042c98

Sophie’s older brother Hans was the first to become disillusioned. He’d been chosen to attend the 1936 Nuremberg Rally, as a representative of the Hitler Youth – a big honor. But while he was there, he was told that Hitler Youth shouldn’t sing some songs he really loved, because the words or music had been written by Jews. (Later, Hans and friends formed their own youth group that resisted Nazi ideas by singing folk songs of all nations!) Soon after, Sophie was told that her favorite poet, Heinrich Heine, was also off limits because of his Jewish heritage – and she began to question Nazi doctrine, too. 

In 1937 several members of Sophie’s family, including Hans, were arrested and briefly imprisoned for “unapproved activities.” Sophie was arrested too, though she was released immediately because she was only sixteen. Biographer Richard Hanser writes, “There is no way of establishing the precise moment when Sophie Scholl decided to become an overt adversary of the [Nazi] state. Her decision, when it came, doubtless resulted from the accretion of offences, small and large, against her conception of what was right, moral, and decent. But now something decisive had happened. The state had laid its hands on her and her family, and now there was no longer any possibility of reconciling herself to a system that had already begun to alienate her.” (28)

Sophie was turning, from conformity towards justice. From fear towards courage. God was working deep inside her to help her be true to her deepest values and best intentions. She and Hans wondered together why so few Christian leaders stood up to the Nazis. Hans wrote in a letter, “When this terror is over… we will have no answer when we are asked: What did you do about it?”

The fact is, many people were conflicted in Nazi Germany. Many had the same concerns as Sophie and her family. But few stood up. Few pushed back. Fear and complacency overwhelmed their consciences. 

Hans went to the University of Munich, and Sophie followed. There they met a few like-minded students, and one professor who dared to share their views. In the summer of 1942, Hans and some friends started a secret group, called the White Rose Society. They wrote and printed leaflets urging ordinary Germans to resist Nazi ideas – one leaflet said, “We want to try and show [people] that everyone is in a position to contribute to the overthrow of the system.” The fourth pamphlet concluded, “We are your bad conscience.” They printed thousands of copies of the leaflets, and secretly sent them all over their city and country. 

When Sophie found out, she was shocked – but then she asked to join them. She knew that because she was a girl, and looked young and innocent, it would be easier for her to sneak around to share the the White Rose pamphlets. Sophie and another female friend bought paper for printing the pamphlets, as well as envelopes and stamps – going to many different stores to avoid suspicion. The group stayed up late at night printing the leaflets. They knew the Gestapo, the Nazi secret police, was after them. 

On February 18, 1943, Hans and Sophie carried the sixth White Rose leaflet to the university campus. Rushing to get all the leaflets out where they might be found before classes began, Sophie tossed some down a staircase into an entrance hall. She was spotted by a janitor who was a loyal Nazi. Sophie and Hans were arrested immedately, and evidence was found that linked them to White Rose. They were tried days later, and quickly condemned to death for being enemies of the government and weakening the nation. Their father had to be dragged out of the courtroom, shouting, “There is a higher justice! They will go down in history!”

Sophie was 21 years old on the day of her execution. Her last words were, “The sun still shines.”

The verses that immediately follow today’s 2 Timothy text read, “As for me, I’m already being poured out like a sacrifice to God, and the time of my death is near. I have fought the good fight, finished the race, and kept the faith. At last the champion’s wreath that is awarded for righteousness is waiting for me.”

I chose Sophie as one of the saints we would meet this fall,  because I wanted to include a young person. To show our kids and youth that their sense of right and wrong, their words and actions, can matter. I didn’t realize, when I chose to tell Sophie’s story, how hard it would be to tell, and perhaps to hear. 

The good news is that few of us are called to Sophie’s path. Few us are called to die for the cause of righteousness.

But all of us are called to turn. To listen to God’s truth written in our hearts, to pay attention to the inner compass deep inside that points us towards true north, and follow where it leads, even when it involves recalculating our route.

I said earlier that turning might be the most important of our seven discipleship practices. In a real sense it’s where the Gospels begin: first John the Baptist, and then Jesus of Nazareth, call people to metanoia. To a change of mind and heart that bears fruit in a changed life. Our capacity to stick with any of the other practices is dependent on our capacity to turn – to listen for the voice of the Holy Spirit; to recognize when we are not where we mean to be, where God means for us to be – and to re-orient ourselves towards what is right, true, and life-giving. All I want is for you to walk straight and free through life, even when it’s hard.

Sophie’s story is exceptional – but what made her exceptional is simply that she listened to the voice deep inside her that kept saying, This is wrong. And, like the woman in our Gospel parable, she persisted – even when it seemed like no one was listening. Sometimes when you’re speaking to the powers that be, there is no conscience, no intention to do right, to which you can appeal. Jesus and others sum up the Law of God this way: Love God, and love your neighbor as you love yourself. The judge in this parable doesn’t give a flying fish about God or neighbor. All he cares about is himself. Sometimes the person or system in charge is unjust, plain and simple. 

This parable can tangle people up sometimes because they think God must be like the judge – and that doesn’t work very well. But that’s not where God is in this story. God is the strength and courage, the love and determination that keeps this woman demanding justice, even when she knows perfectly well that this judge doesn’t care about her case. And God is the force that makes the judge relent and do the right thing, if only to get some peace and quiet. 

God is in the capacity of people and systems to change, to be transformed; God is the Source of holy persistence, of faithful courage; God is in the nudge that reminds us of our need to turn, and God is the promise that whatever we face, on the road of justice, mercy, and love, the sun still shines. 

Main source for information about Sophie in this sermon: 

https://timeline.com/sophie-scholl-white-rose-guillotine-6b3901042c98

Some more sites about Sophie: 

https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/75-years-ago-hans-sophie-scholl/

https://allthatsinteresting.com/sophie-scholl-hans-scholl-white-rose-movement

https://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/the-white-rose-a-lesson-in-dissent

Announcements, October 17

THIS WEEK….

Annual Giving Campaign Kickoff will be Sunday, October 20! At Announcement time, we’ll share a little about our draft budget and hopes for 2020 and beyond, and everyone can pick up a pledge packet. (If you’re not at church, pledge packets will be mailed out on Monday.) We hope to gather all pledges by Dedication Sunday on November 17, and to celebrate together on November 24 (the Sunday before Thanksgiving). Our big goal this year is to collect 90 pledges of financial support to St. Dunstan’s for 2020!

Sunday School at St. Dunstan’s: Our Sunday school classes for kids meet during 10am worship on the second and third Sundays of most months. We have three Sunday school classes: for kids age 3 through kindergarten, for grades 1 – 3, and grades 4 – 6. Kids are welcome to try it out at any time, and parents may come along too! If you’d like to get involved, contact Sharon Henes.

Cookie Church, 6 – 7pm on Sunday Nights: Cookie Church is simple bedtime church. It is child-centered but not just for kids; we find that youth and grownups like it too! We will share singing, story, Eucharist, and a snack. (Yes, there will be cookies.) We end with bedtime prayers and it’s OK to come in your pajamas! Cookie Church is planned for Sundays in October and November, starting October 13. Sign up in the Gathering Area if you’d like to make a batch of cookies for us one week. We ask for at least 20 cookies, and it’s OK to drop them off Sunday morning (clearly labeled!)

Practicing Holy Living, Fall 2019: A few years ago, St. Dunstan’s identified seven core practices by which we live out our faith in daily life: Welcoming, Abiding, Wondering, Proclaiming, Turning, Reconciling, and Making. (Read more by picking up a leaflet in the Gathering Area!) This autumn, we’re meeting some saints – those who loved and fought, lived and died for the Lord they loved and knew – who embodied each of these practices. We’ll continue on October 20 with Sophie Scholl and the practice of Turning. Come at 9am to talk about the practice of Turning in our lives!

THE WEEKS AHEAD…

Ladies’ Night Out, Friday, October 25, 6pm: Come join us for good food and good conversation among women of all ages from St. Dunstan’s. This month we will meet at Los Gemelos Restaurant at 6713 Odana Road, Madison. On Odana, turn into the parking area immediately west of the paint store, in the area with the Indian restaurant with the blue awning. Then, drive to the back of the building where the sign says Los Gemelos grocery and restaurant. It sounds complicated, but it really isn’t! For more information, please contact Kathy Whitt.

Fall Clean-Up,  Sunday, Oct. 27, 11:30 – 1:00pm: Wear your work clothes to church and stay after the 10am service for a simple lunch (with an overview of tasks to complete while we’re eating), followed by time to work on our grounds. We’ll wrap up by 1:00pm, but you can leave anytime you’ve completed your tasks.

Bite Size Climate, Sunday, November 3, 11:50 – 12:10: Many of us are fearful and sad about climate change and its many impacts.  An important first step towards change is to be informed citizens who understand the issue and can talk about it with others – since we’ll all need to work together for change. This time, we’ll look at myths about climate change. Bite-Sized Climate is a time for adults, kids and youth to spend 20 minutes (we promise!) learning and talking together.  Get a snack at coffee hour, then gather in the meeting room! Our next planned date is December 1st, for a super-sciencey look at climate models. 

Madison-Area Julian Gathering, Wednesday, November 13, 1:00 – 2:45 PM: We welcome everyone who is interested in learning more about contemplative spirituality in the Christian tradition.  We meet the second Wednesday of the month for a period of contemplative prayer, after which we discuss a reading from Julian of Norwich, a 14th Century English mystic who has been called “a theologian for our time.”  We would love to have you join us.  If you have questions, contact Susan Fiore, ObJN.

Saturday Book Club, November 16, 2019 at 10 am: This month’s book is Manhattan Beach by Jenifer Egan. Getting a hard copy of the book: The Madison Central Library (next door to the Overture Center) has a Book Club section – located on the western end of the second floor. This section contains multiple copies of selected books. The next meeting’s book – Manhattan Beach – is available in this section. If you check it out at the main desk and say it is a Book Club book, they can also give you an extended time to read it.

Looking for Coffee Hosts! Since our kitchen is ready to use again, there are signup sheets out for coffee hour beginning on October 20th. Consider being a coffee host and talk with Janet Bybee  for more information.

Altar Flowers: Fall dates available – sign up at church or by email! Honor a loved one or a special event with altar flowers on a special date! At church, sign up on the clipboard under the big calendar in the Gathering Area, and place a check or cash in an envelope labeled “Flowers” in the offering plate. From home, email office@stdunstans.com with your preferred date and dedication, and make your gift online at donate.stdunstans.com. Thank you for beautifying our worship space!

Sermon, Oct. 13

Seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the LORD on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare. Does that sound familiar? We say a version of it in our Prayers of the People every week: Work and pray for the good of the city where you dwell, for in its peace we shall find our peace. I’ve heard from folks in the past who assume the “city” in question is Madison, and feel a little offended that we’re leaving out Middleton, Cross Plains, Mount Horeb, Sun Prairie, Black Earth, Verona, and so on. But the city mentioned here, in fact, is Babylon. 

The prophet Jeremiah was born around the year 626 before the birth of Jesus, in a time of instability and threat for Jerusalem and Judea. God called him as a boy to speak God’s words to the nations, and especially to his own nation and its leaders – bringing them the unpopular news that conquest, death and doom are coming. Sure enough, in the year 587, when Jeremiah is around forty years old, the armies of the empire of Babylon march into Judea, killing and destroying as they come. After a long and terrible siege, they conquer the city, and tear down the great Temple. Most of the people of Jerusalem and Judea are killed or exiled. Jeremiah himself ends up in Egypt, dragged along with some nobles fleeing Babylon’s might. 

All that is context for this letter to the exiles, today’s Jeremiah text. You might notice our text skips some verses; that’s just more about when the letter was written and how it was sent. In the verses following our text, Jeremiah speaks for God to say, God’s going to bring you home and restore your nation – but it’s going to be a while. So! Settle in. Build a house! Plant a garden! Make family! Live!  

Last week’s Old Testament text from the book of Lamentations gives us a hint about why this message was needed. The book of Lamentations is exactly what it says on the tin – a book of poetry of grief and loss over the Babylonian conquest. Listen to a few poignant verses:  “Judah has gone into exile with suffering and hard servitude; she lives now among the nations, and finds no resting place… All her people groan as they search for bread; they trade their treasures for food to revive their strength. The Lord is in the right, for I have rebelled against his word; but hear, all you peoples, and behold my suffering; my young women and young men have gone into captivity. In the street the sword bereaves; in the house it is like death. On the day of the anger of the Lord no one escaped or survived; those whom I bore and reared my enemy has destroyed.”  (Lamentations 1, selected verses) 

Jeremiah is speaking to people traumatized, grieving and angry.  And his message, God’s message, is: Choose life. And don’t just survive: Work and pray for Babylon, the capital city of your conquerors. Seek the shalom of Babylon – a wonderful word that combines peace and wellbeing. 

Work and pray for the good fo the city where you dwell. Do Jeremiah’s words speak to us? Many of us have had experiences of otherness or not belonging, minor or major, that have something in common with the Israelites’ experience in Babylon. But few of us probably think of ourselves as exiles, people forced to live among strangers, in a place not our own. 

Yet our Christian ancestors thought of themselves that way – even when living in their hometowns. Their beliefs and practices set them apart, made them not belong. One metaphor they used was that of citizenship, based on Roman citizenship, a distinctive identity that you would carry with you wherever you went, that set you apart and incurred both privileges and obligations. Paul – who was a Roman citizen – writes in the letter to the Philippians, “Our citizenship is in heaven, and it is from there that we are expecting a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.” (3:20). And the letter to the Ephesians says, “You are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are citizens with the saints and… members of the household of God.” (2:19) So our forbears experienced their faith as a kind of otherness. As making them resident aliens, citizens of another nation – working and praying for the good of the city where they dwelt, but never forgetting that their true identity and loyalty lay elsewhere. 

Then came 1700 years when it was pretty easy to forget. Christianity became the religion of the western world. That marriage of Church, state, and culture that endured so long was called Christendom… and it’s over. I just covered a whole library of historical and sociological literature  in two sentences; take my word for it for now, and let me know if you want to read more.

One of the gifts of Christianity after Christendom is that we have more in common now with our ancestors in faith. When we read in early Christian texts about feeling like outsiders, being seen as strange or dangerous or just eccentric and irrational by our cultured neighbors – well, we can relate. (With the added layer that when Christianity does show up in the public square or the halls of power, it’s often not our Christianity.) So, more than many of the generations in between, we may find some encouragement and direction in the lives of the early Christians, and before them, in the lives of the Jewish exiles. That’s why we use this snippet of Jeremiah in our prayers: Work and pray for the good, the shalom, of the city where you dwell. 

What did that look like, in practice, for God’s people in exile? It looked like Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego – young Israelite men, educated, probably of elite backgrounds – who were brought into the court of King Nebuchadnezzar, to become pampered symbols of Babylon’s conquest of Judea. Now, King Nebuchadnezzar had a giant golden statue of himself made, and issued this edict: “You are commanded, O peoples, nations, and languages, that when you hear the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, drum, and entire musical ensemble, you are to fall down and worship the golden statue that King Nebuchadnezzar has set up.” But Jews worship only one god. They will not bow down to false idols, things made by human hands that we give power over ourselves. And people noticed that Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were not bowing down to the golden statue that Nebuchadnezzar had set up. So they told the king. And King Nebuchadnezzar in a furious rage had the three young men flung into a fiery furnace, because they would not worship him as a god. But the flames did not hurt them! When they came out again, the hair of their heads was not singed, their tunics were not harmed. Nebuchadnezzar was amazed and issued a new edict: Blessed be the god of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, and let everyone honor their god, who has shown such power in saving them from the fire! 

Daniel, for his part, earned the esteem of Nebuchadnezzar for his wisdom in interpreting dreams. A few years later, after Nebuchadnezzar was dead, his son Belshazzar held a great feast. And under the influence of wine, Belshazzar had the holy vessels from the Great Temple in Jerusalem, that his father’s armies had stolen, brought out, and they drank wine from them. And suddenly, Belshazzar saw a hand appear and begin to write on the wall – mysterious words he could not read. The King was terrified. He called in all his sorcerers and scholars. 

He told them that anyone who could tell him what the writing meant would be dressed in royal purple, with a gold chain around his neck, and be ranked third in the kingdom. But no one could read the writing on the wall. (Yes, this is where that saying comes from.) Then the queen said, Remember that young Judean man who was so good at interpreting your father’s dreams? Perhaps he can help. 

So Daniel was summoned. And the king told him, ‘If you can read this writing, you shall be clothed in purple, have a chain of gold around your neck, and rank third in the kingdom.’ But Daniel said, O King, keep your gifts! You have exalted yourself agains the Lord of Heaven, the only true God, by drinking wine from the vessels of God’s holy Temple. You worship gods of silver and gold, wood and stone; but the God in whose power is your very breath, and to whom belong all your ways, you have not honored. The writing on the wall is a message from the God of Israel, and this is what it says:  MENE, MENE, TEKEL PARSIN, which means, God has numbered the days of your kingdom.You have been weighed, and found wanting. Your kingdom will be taken from you and divided. Then Belshazzar gave the command, and Daniel was clothed in purple, and a gold chain put around his neck, and it was decreed that he should rank third in the kingdom. And that very night… King Belshazzar died. 

And then there is Esther, a young Jewish woman who lived a few decades later, a descendant of the exiles. When the Judeans were allowed to return to Jerusalem, fifty years after the Exile, not everyone chose to return. Esther’s family was among those who had followed Jeremiah’s advice so well that they stayed in their new homes. But they were still Jews – set apart by their beliefs and practices, and by their neighbors’ suspicions. By an unlikely series of events, Esther ends up married King Ahasuerus, the local ruler.  The king and the court don’t know that Esther is a Jew. Meanwhile, an adviser to the king, named Haman, has a grudge against Mordecai, Esther’s uncle, because Haman thinks he’s really important… and Mordecai doesn’t. 

So Haman tells the king that these Jews who live in the city – they’re not really just like everybody else. They have different values, a different way of life. They don’t really belong here. Maybe we should throw them out. Maybe we should kill them. 

The king says, Sure, do what you want. Issue an edict in my name: On such and such a day, we’ll get rid of the Jews.

Mordecai sends word to Esther: You have to do something! You have to change the King’s mind! It’s the only hope for your people. Perhaps you were raised to this high position for just such a time as this!

Esther is afraid; this isn’t a warm, chummy marriage – she only sees the king when he sends for her.  But she summons her courage and invites him to dinner. She chooses her moment and makes her case. She reminds the king that Mordecai, her uncle, once uncovered a plot to assassinate him!  The Jews are good citizens, loyal and helpful! She asks him to spare her life, and the lives of all her people. The king reverses his edict, instead protecting the Jews – and Haman is executed. 

Build houses and live in them; plant gardens; work for the welfare of the place where you find yourself… but never forget who, and whose, you are; for you are still God’s people, even in exile. For the three young men, that meant refusing to bow down to the golden idols, those false and empty gods. For Daniel, it meant taking the opportunities that came his way – being honored and esteemed by those in power, but also being ready to tell them the truth, no matter what the cost. For Esther, it meant being bold about using her position and voice, trusting that God had prepared her for such a time as this. 

Daniel and Esther and the others were God’s gift to the places where they lived. The resident alien, the outsider, the person pushed to the margins, a step or two outside of mainstream culture, our accepted norms and shared assumptions – 

Those people often see things a little more clearly. Like the Samaritan in today’s Gospel story. We’ve invited to assume the other nine lepers were Jews. People who had skin diseases were ostracized, cut off from normal social and religious life. It makes sense that misfits from different social backgrounds would hang out together – we’ve all seen those movies. But then the club breaks up: the nine do what Jesus, and their religion, tell them to do – if your leprosy goes away, naturally or miraculously, you’re supposed to go to the priest to be cleared to resume normal life. What they do makes perfect sense to them. But for the Samaritan, that’s not his faith, not his practice. That’s WHY he is the one who says, Heck with the priests; that guy back there – he’s the one who cleansed me! I need to go back and thank him! 

Work and pray for the shalom of the city where you dwell. 

I think there’s real grace in this invitation to be in the world, but not entirely of it. To be present and engaged, while remembering our true loyalties. Seek the welfare of the city where you dwell, be it Madison, Middleton, Fitchburg, Mount Horeb, and so on… but remember that you just live there. Our citizenship is in the Body of Christ – an idea that may be a comfort some days, a challenge on others!  The values and orientations and practices that we carry inside us may put us at odds – at times SHOULD put us at odds – with the world around us, in expected and unexpected ways. 

May we inherit Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego’s clarity about what’s worthy of our loyalty. May we inherit Daniel’s readiness to speak the unpopular truth. May we inherit Esther’s courage in using whatever measure of privilege, status and connection we may have to speak up for those demonized and in danger. May we work and pray for the good of the city where we dwell… for in its peace we shall find our peace. Amen. 

Announcements, October 10

THIS WEEK…

Cookie Church Resumes October 13, 6 – 7pm on Sunday Nights: Cookie Church is simple bedtime church. It is child-centered but not just for kids; we find that youth and grownups like it too! We will share singing, story, Eucharist, and a snack. (Yes, there will be cookies.) We end with bedtime prayers and it’s OK to come in your pajamas! Cookie Church is planned for Sundays in October and November, starting October 13. Sign up in the Gathering Area if you’d like to make a batch of cookies for us one week. We ask for at least 20 cookies, and it’s OK to drop them off Sunday morning (clearly labeled!).

Sunday School at St. Dunstan’s: Our Sunday school classes for kids meet during 10am worship on the second and third Sundays of most months. We have three Sunday school classes: for kids age 3 through kindergarten, for grades 1 – 3, and grades 4 – 6. Kids are welcome to try it out at any time, and parents may come along too! If you’d like to get involved, contact Sharon Henes.

Sunday Papers: For those worshiping with children: We always have copies of The Sunday Paper and The Sunday Paper Jr. for kids to pick up on the way into church. The Sunday Paper is based on the lessons for each Sunday. It invites kids to color, draw, read, and wonder. It helps children to acquire a vocabulary of Scriptural images, and to relate the Gospel to the Old Testament, the life of the Church, and their own lives. Adults may find it worth reading too. You are encouraged to check it out!

Practicing Holy Living, Fall 2019: A few years ago, St. Dunstan’s identified seven core practices by which we live out our faith in daily life: Welcoming, Abiding, Wondering, Proclaiming, Turning, Reconciling, and Making. (Read more by picking up a leaflet in the Gathering Area!) This autumn, we’re meeting some saints – those who loved and fought, lived and died for the Lord they loved and knew – who embodied each of these practices. We’ll continue on October 13 with Harriet Tubman and the practice of Proclaiming. Come at 9am to talk about the practice of Proclaiming in our lives!

Outreach Hearts:  At St. Dunstan’s we use hearts to represent offerings made by our Outreach Committee to organizations helping those in need locally, nationally, and internationally.   Each heart represents 100 dollars.  These hearts are presented at the offering to remind us that our gifts to others are gifts to God.   In September we donated the following:

$1,000(10 hearts) to the St. Dunstan’s Diaper Drive to provide diapers to shelters and food pantries in Dane County and nearby counties in Wisconsin.

$1,000 (10 hearts) to Episcopal Network for Economic Justice, an organization co-founded by the Reverend Art Lloyd that advocates for economic justice nationally and provides member congregations with resources and networks to build their own economic justice programs.

$2,148 (aprx 21 hearts) to the Episcopal Relief and Development fund for hurricane relief in the Bahamas.

THE WEEKS AHEAD…

Annual Giving Campaign Kickoff will be Sunday, October 20! At Announcement time, we’ll share a little about our draft budget and hopes for 2020 and beyond, and everyone can pick up a pledge packet. (If you’re not at church, pledge packets will be mailed out on Monday.) We hope to gather all pledges by Dedication Sunday on November 17, and to celebrate together on November 24 (the Sunday before Thanksgiving). Our big goal this year is to collect 90 pledges of financial support to St. Dunstan’s for 2020!

Ladies’ Night Out, Friday, October 26, 6pm: Come join us for good food and good conversation among women of all ages from St. Dunstan’s. This month we will meet at Los Gemelos Restaurant at 6713 Odana Road, Madison. On Odana, turn into the parking area immediately west of the paint store, in the area with the Indian restaurant with the blue awning. Then, drive to the back of the building where the sign says Los Gemelos grocery and restaurant. It sounds complicated, but it really isn’t! For more information, please contact Kathy Whitt.

Fall Clean-Up,  Sunday, Oct. 27, 11:30 – 1:00pm: Wear your work clothes to church and stay after the 10am service for a simple lunch (with an overview of tasks to complete while we’re eating), followed by time to work on our grounds. We’ll wrap up by 1:00pm, but you can leave anytime you’ve completed your tasks.

Saturday Book Club, November 16, 2019 at 10 am: This month’s book is Manhattan Beach by Jenifer Egan. Getting a hard copy of the book: The Madison Central Library (next door to the Overture Center) has a Book Club section – located on the western end of the second floor. This section contains multiple copies of selected books. The next meeting’s book – Manhattan Beach – is available in this section. If you check it out at the main desk and say it is a Book Club book, they can also give you an extended time to read it.

Looking for Coffee Hosts! Since our kitchen is getting close to completion, there are signup sheets out for coffee hour beginning on October 20th. Consider being a coffee host and talk with Janet Bybee at (608) 836-9755 for more information.

Altar Flowers: Fall dates available – sign up at church or by email! Honor a loved one or a special event with altar flowers on a special date! At church, sign up on the clipboard under the big calendar in the Gathering Area, and place a check or cash in an envelope labeled “Flowers” in the offering plate. From home, email office@stdunstans.com with your preferred date and dedication, and make your gift online at donate.stdunstans.com. Thank you for beautifying our worship space!

Sermon, Oct. 6

Let’s talk about Luke – the name by which we know the author of this Gospel, one of the four Biblical books that tells the story of Jesus’ life, teaching, death, and resurrection. Luke is writing perhaps fifty to sixty years after these events. He’s talked with people who were there, and he’s read various written accounts, including Mark’s Gospel and at least one other compilation of Jesus’ teachings and sayings. He’s not satisfied that anybody has really pulled it all together into one coherent, compelling account yet. So, he tells us in the first chapter, he decided to take on the task of investigating everything carefully and writing down an orderly account, so that everyone may know the truth. 

To do this, Luke is trying to combine all these various sources. Imagine him with index cards all over his desk, moving them around, trying to get the timeline right, to match parables with sayings with healings, and so on. Overall, he does a pretty good job…though I think he sticks too many morals onto the ends of parables sometimes. 

Today’s Gospel passage feels to me like some of Luke’s left-over index cards. Luke has it on good authority that Jesus said these things, but he doesn’t know where to stick them into the story. So there’s this part in chapter 17 where Jesus just says stuff. There are three sayings in this section; today’s Gospel passage contains two of them. The first is a short speech about handling others’ bad behavior. Jesus says, Don’t cause others to stumble; rebuke those who sin; but also be ready to forgive, over and over again. This passage is also in Matthew’s Gospel, because Matthew was reading some of the same sources as Luke, and we’ll read it on a Sunday next year, when Matthew will be our core Gospel text.

Then there’s this saying about faith like a mustard seed; and then the saying about the obedient slaves. From there, Luke chapter 17 goes to a healing story and then some of Jesus’ teachings about the end times, including everybody’s favorite Bible verse, “Where the corpse is, there the vultures will gather.”  (That’s Luke 17:35, if you want to embroider it on something.) 

I don’t think the two teachings in today’s text are directly related, except in the general sense of “stuff Jesus talked about.” They’re just a couple of index cards Luke put together, trying to organize all this material. So the jump from the obliging mulberry tree to the weary slave really is a jump; it’s not just you. But that doesn’t help us that much, because even if we take them separately, these are both difficult sayings. 

Listen to the second saying again: Jesus said, “Who among you would say to your slave who has just come in from ploughing or tending sheep in the field, “Come here at once and take your place at the table”? Would you not rather say to him, “Prepare supper for me, put on your apron and serve me while I eat and drink; later you may eat and drink”? Do you thank the slave for doing what was commanded? So you also, when you have done all that you were ordered to do, say, “We are worthless slaves; we have done only what we ought to have done!” 

The word translated as slave here is doulos in Greek, and it’s a tricky word to translate into American English. The range of practices by which one person was bound to serve another person in the ancient Near East were somewhat different from our American experience with slavery. The same word is translated as “servant” in some other passages, and in some translations of this passage. But the emphasis in this little story is on the power imbalance between the master and the worker – and it’s clear that the worker has little authority or autonomy. He doesn’t get to rest when he’s tired; he doesn’t get to eat when he’s hungry. Anyone who could easily find other work would probably do so. Slave seems like the right word to use. 

So what is Jesus saying, here? Is he saying that God’s relationship with us is like the relationship of an exploitative, even abusive, master? I don’t think so. I think Luke put this index card in the wrong place. 

See, Jesus is very audience-conscious. He always knows who he’s talking to and what they need to hear, whether it’s comfort or challenge. When he’s talking to ordinary folks, he tells stories about farming and fishing, housekeeping and sheep-herding. When he’s talking to his rich friends, he tells stories about property development, lavish banquets, and staff management.

When he begins this little parable with, “Think about how you treat your slaves,” that makes me think he is not talking to his usual crowd of penniless seekers -even though that’s where Luke pastes the story into his text. I think Jesus is talking to people who own slaves, and treat them exactly like this, and think that’s normal. And I think the jarring language is very intentional. 

Think: You’re a wealthy man who’s also publicly religious. You participate in holy days, you give generously to the Temple, you keep the food purity rules, and so on. Maybe you’re a little proud of all that. Maybe you reckon your wealth is because God is especially pleased with you. And then Jesus looks you in the eye and says, All your righteousness is only doing what you have been ordered to do, by Moses and the prophets. It does not make you God’s special favorite.

So I’m hypothesizing that this parable might have been originally spoken to folks who were wealthy and somewhat self-righteous. Did Jesus know anybody like that? He sure did. He went to dinner with people like that back in chapter 14, and he had a few things to say to them. He mocked them a little for their status anxiety and jockeying for position, and then he told his host, ‘You think you’re being pretty generous with this nice dinner party. But you know, most of your guests will have you over to dinner within a month, to return the favor and show off their houses. If you really want your generosity to impress God, hold a banquet and invite all the poor folks in your neighborhood, even those who beg in the streets.’ There’s an echo here of the Sermon on the Mount, earlier in Luke’s Gospel, when Jesus said, “If you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same.”

If we imagine the saying from today’s Gospel being spoken at that dinner table, or one a lot like it, Jesus’ description of harsh treatment of slaves makes sense. He is not endorsing the master’s behavior. He’s calling out what he sees – a shallow righteousness without kindness. And he’s trying to shock and humble his elite hearers by equating them with slaves, reminding them that while they feel pretty important among their neighbors, they are lowly before God. The first shall be last, and the last shall be first. 

There is a more general teaching buried here, I think – that following God’s ways is a basic pattern of life, not something extra for which you earn a gold star. But I believe Jesus is shaping his message in this text for a particular audience, and we are not that audience – unless any of you are particularly nasty to your household help. 

That leaves us with the mustard seed and the mulberry bush! Here it is again: The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!” The Lord replied, “If you had faith the size of a mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you.”

The apostles, here, means the group of Jesus’ disciples whom he’s appointed to go out and spread the good news of God’s redemption. So… he’s talking to us. No way to dodge it this time. 

I have two conflicting gut reactions to this text. One is, That’s not how things work. Jesus is talking about faith as if it were stage magic. The point of faith is not to manipulate reality. When the Marianne Williamsons of the world suggest we can focus our prayers and get a hurricane to turn away from our favorite beach resort, they misunderstand both God and world. In my most faithful moments, in the moments when I know deeply and boldly that God’s redemptive love is powerfully at work in every human circumstance – I still have not been able to throw trees around. (Though I admit I’m not sure I’ve tried.) So my first reaction is, honestly, to be a little angry. Jesus’ playful hyperbolic language about the power of faith here seems misleading and possibly harmful. 

But my second reaction is: Yeah, Jesus, you got me. In my most faithful moments, my faith is still so small. The Greek word here, pistis, is really more like trust. What do we trust in? It’s so easy to trust in things like tomorrow being a lot like today; like a plastic card that somehow allows you to buy food; like my own competence, and the illusion of control. It’s so hard to trust in God, unseen and unknowable. 

There’s a term for this: functional atheism. It means we believe in God, but don’t actually run our lives that way. Author Parker Palmer defines functional atheism as “the belief that ultimate responsibility for everything rests with me.” Molly Baskette, from the United Church of Christ, suggests you might be a functional atheist if you often find yourself saying, “‘I can handle this all by myself.’ ‘Don’t worry about me.’ ‘Yup, just fine.’” That doesn’t mean our belief is shallow or insincere. It means that our culture has successfully sold us the myth of rugged individualism, complete with stress and loneliness. It means that it’s hard for us to feel and trust in God’s near and loving presence. Gerald May writes, “Even if we believe devoutly that God is present with us, our usual experience is that we are “here” and God is “there,” loving and gracious perhaps, but irrevocably separate. “We just don’t understand ourselves,” says [Saint] Teresa [of Avila], “or know who we are.”  (Gerald May, The Dark Night of the Soul)

Maybe I shouldn’t admit this from the pulpit, but I find that all of this names me better than I like. If my faith were like a mustard seed… 

Hmm, doesn’t mustard seed sound familiar?… 

Jesus talks about mustard seeds twice in Luke’s Gospel. One day – about four chapters earlier – Jesus was telling stories about the Kingdom of God, God’s alternate reality of justice, mercy, freedom and love. And he said, “The Kingdom of God is like a mustard seed that someone took and sowed in the garden; it grew and became a tree, and the birds of the air made nests in its branches.” (Luke 13:18-19)

The Kingdom of God might seem tiny… but it GROWS. It grows and spreads, and becomes strong and gracious and lovely. What if our faith can do that too?

[Show people mustard seeds] These are seeds from the garlic mustard that grows in many places on our church grounds. It’s a very different kind of plant than Jesus is describing, but it’s part of the same big family of mustard plants. And it has the same tendency to start out tiny… and end up big. I’m sure some of you see garlic mustard as an enemy… but you’ve got to respect how resilient and prolific it is. 

Jesus says, The kingdom of God is like a mustard seed… And Jesus says, If you had faith like a mustard seed… Our Bible translation says “faith the size of a mustard seed,” but the original Greek doesn’t say anything about size – it’s just, like a mustard seed, in both of those passages. Maybe Jesus’ reply to his friends’ request isn’t shaming them for having little faith. Maybe instead he’s saying that the quantity of your faith doesn’t matter; that in fact it’s not even quantifiable. Because faith is like the Kingdom is like a mustard seed: it seems so small, but throw a few of those seeds around, and suddenly the woods are so full of the stuff that you’re asking volunteers to come pull it up. 

On the days when my faith feels small, when I trust too much in myself or the world and forget to trust in the God who knows my name and loves me beyond imagining – what I need on those days isn’t to beat myself up about it, but to trust that small things matter. My faith – our faith – however tiny or weak it might feel, can make a difference to us, to others, to the world. That’s why we started talking about these spiritual practices, a few years ago. We got together and asked ourselves and each other about why we follow Jesus, and what church means to us, and when we’re aware that we’re doing something because of our values and convictions as people of faith. And we took all that beautiful qualitative data and shook it all up and ended up with the discipleship practices we’re talking through this fall; we’ve done Welcoming, Abiding, and Wondering so far, and today is blessed Francis and Reconciling. 

These practices: they are things we already do, because we’re already formed by our faith and the way it orients us in the world, often at a level we’re not even conscious of. But naming and talking about them also helps us be intentional about looking for opportunities to practice them more faithfully and fully. 

That’s how our faith – our capacity to trust in God and let that trust make a difference in our lives – that’s how faith is like a mustard seed: smaller than a fingertip, but holding within itself the gracious tree, the resilient weed, that lives, and grows, and spreads, and changes things. 

Molly Baskette’s summary of functional atheism: 

https://www.ucc.org/daily_devotional_functional_atheism_1

Announcements, October 3

THIS WEEK….

Birthday and Anniversary blessings and Healing Prayers will be given this Sunday, October 6, as is our custom on the first Sunday of the month.

MOM Special Offering, Sunday, October 6: Next Sunday, half the cash in our offering plate and any designated checks will be given to Middleton Outreach Ministry’s food pantry. Thank you for your generous support!

Green Idea Fair, Sunday, October 6: Over the summer we invited one another to try out some new Green Habits, to reduce the environmental impact of our households and our daily lives. The Green Fair is an opportunity to share what has worked for you! We’ll have some tables set out where you can create some form of simple “show and tell” about what you did. We’ll also give out our Green Habit Challenge badges to those who completed 5 tasks from our list, between July and September. If you have something to share at the Fair but can’t attend, talk to Rev. Miranda; we’ll figure it out. Sign up in the Gathering Area to participate!

Blessing of the Animals Service, Sunday, October 6, 3pm: People and creatures are invited to a short service of song, story, and prayer.  Animals should be on a leash or in a carrier. Stuffed animals are welcome as well. Spread the word and invite a friend!

Practicing Holy Living, Fall 2019: A few years ago, St. Dunstan’s identified seven core practices by which we live out our faith in daily life: Welcoming, Abiding, Wondering, Proclaiming, Turning, Reconciling, and Making. (Read more by picking up a leaflet in the Gathering Area!) This autumn, we’re meeting some saints – those who loved and fought, lived and died for the Lord they loved and knew – who embodied each of these practices. We’ll continue on October 6 with Francis of Assisi and the practice of Reconciling. Come at 9am to talk about the practice of Reconciling in our lives!

Madison-Area Julian Gathering Wednesday, October 9, 1:00 – 2:45 PM: St. Julian of Norwich: 14th Century heretic?  No, although a reader might at first think so.  14th Century psychologist?  Sort of . . . she understood the human heart and, through her sixteen revelations of Jesus, she understood the heart of God.  Thomas Merton called her “the greatest theologian for our time.”  Come to one of our monthly meetings and find out why — and learn about contemplative prayer.  We meet the second Wednesday of each month.  We’d love to see you.  For more information, contact Susan Fiore, ObJN.

Celebration of Life for Rich Roe, Saturday, Oct. 12, 1PM: The St. Dunstan’s family is invited by the Roe family to celebrate the life of Richard Roe at St. Dunstan’s Church on Saturday, Oct. 12, beginning at 1 p.m.  A reading of Rich’s poems will follow at 2 p.m. Members of the parish who would like to contribute to a light reception should contact Connie Ott.

THE WEEKS AHEAD…

Cookie Church Resumes October 13, 6 – 7pm on Sunday Nights: Cookie Church is simple bedtime church. It is child-centered but not just for kids; we find that youth and grownups like it too! We will share singing, story, Eucharist, and a snack. (Yes, there will be cookies.) We end with bedtime prayers and it’s OK to come in your pajamas! Cookie Church is planned for Sundays in October and November, starting October 13. Sign up in the Gathering Area if you’d like to make a batch of cookies for us one week. We ask for at least 20 cookies, and it’s OK to drop them off Sunday morning (clearly labeled!).

Annual Giving Campaign Kickoff will be Sunday, October 20! At Announcement time, we’ll share a little about our draft budget and hopes for 2020 and beyond, and everyone can pick up a pledge packet. (If you’re not at church, pledge packets will be mailed out on Monday.) We hope to gather all pledges by Dedication Sunday on November 17, and to celebrate together on November 24 (the Sunday before Thanksgiving). Our big goal this year is to collect 90 pledges of financial support to St. Dunstan’s for 2020!

Ladies’ Night Out, Friday, August 23, 6pm: Come join us for good food and good conversation among women of all ages from St. Dunstan’s. This month we will meet at Los Gemelos Restaurant at 6713 Odana Road, Madison. On Odana, turn into the parking area immediately west of the paint store, in the area with the Indian restaurant with the blue awning. Then, drive to the back of the building where the sign says Los Gemelos grocery and restaurant. It sounds complicated, but it really isn’t! For more information, please contact Kathy Whitt.

Saturday Book Club, November 16, 2019 at 10 am: This month’s book is Manhattan Beach by Jenifer Egan. Getting a hard copy of the book: The Madison Central Library (next door to the Overture Center) has a Book Club section – located on the western end of the second floor. This section contains multiple copies of selected books. The next meeting’s book – Manhattan Beach – is available in this section. If you check it out at the main desk and say it is a Book Club book, they can also give you an extended time to read it.

Looking for Coffee Hosts! Since our kitchen is getting close to completion, there are signup sheets out for coffee hour beginning on October 20th. Consider being a coffee host and talk with Janet Bybee.

Altar Flowers: Fall dates available – sign up at church or by email! Honor a loved one or a special event with altar flowers on a special date! At church, sign up on the clipboard under the big calendar in the Gathering Area, and place a check or cash in an envelope labeled “Flowers” in the offering plate. From home, email office@stdunstans.com with your preferred date and dedication, and make your gift online at donate.stdunstans.com. Thank you for beautifying our worship space!

DIOCESAN CONVENTION VOLUNTEERS WANTED! Our diocese will hold its annual convention on Saturday, October 19, at the Madison Marriott West Hotel (over in Greenway Station). We need a few volunteers able to help with registration (7:30am – 11am) or counting ballots for our votes (8am – 3pm). Breakfast will be provided. People can do both things if you’re available and willing! Barb Klauber in the diocesan office promises to treat volunteers like royalty! If you can help out, contact Barb at  or (414) 272-3028 / ext. 111.  Thank you!

Announcements, September 29

THIS WEEK….

Last Sunday All-Ages Worship, Sunday, September 29, 10am: Our last Sunday worship is intended especially to help kids (and grownups who are new to our pattern of worship) to engage and participate fully. NOTE: Our 8am service always follows our regular order of worship.

Bite Size Climate, Sunday, Sept. 29, 11:50 – 12:10: Many of us are fearful and sad about climate change and its many impacts. An important first step towards change is to be informed citizens who understand the issue and can talk about it with others – since we’ll all need to work together for change. Bite-Sized Climate is a time for adults, kids and youth to spend 20 minutes (we promise!) learning and talking together.  Get a snack at coffee hour, then gather in the meeting room!

Green Habits Challenge Badge: Final Week! If you’ve been trying out some green habits this summer, now is the time to tally & see if you’ve completed at least five of the eleven ideas offered this summer; pick up a green leaflet under the big calendar in the Gathering Area or go to stdunstans.com/faith-practices/green-challenge-badge-summer-2019/ to see the list. We will be awarding badges on Sunday, October 6. (You can also get one later if you’re away that Sunday.)

Diocesan Convention: Pre-Convention Meeting, Wednesday, October 2, 7pm, at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church: The Pre-Convention meeting will be a preview of any significant matters to come before our Diocesan Convention.  Diocesan Convention will be on Saturday, October 19, at the Madison Marriott West Hotel (in the Greenway Station area), beginning with on-site registration/check-in at 8 am and ending by 5pm.  All are welcome to attend all or part of the convention!

Practicing Holy Living, Fall 2019: A few years ago, St. Dunstan’s identified seven core practices by which we live out our faith in daily life: Welcoming, Abiding, Wondering, Proclaiming, Turning, Reconciling, and Making. (Read more by picking up a leaflet in the Gathering Area!) This autumn, we’re meeting some saints – those who loved and fought, lived and died for the Lord they loved and knew – who embodied each of these practices. We’ll continue on Sept. 29 with Richard Hooker and the practice of Wondering. Come at 9am to talk about the practice of Abiding in our lives!

Altar Flowers: Fall dates available – sign up at church or by email! Honor a loved one or a special event with altar flowers on a special date! At church, sign up on the clipboard under the big calendar in the Gathering Area, and place a check or cash in an envelope labeled “Flowers” in the offering plate. From home, email office@stdunstans.com with your preferred date and dedication, and make your gift online at donate.stdunstans.com. Thank you for beautifying our worship space!

THE WEEKS AHEAD…

Green Idea Fair, Sunday, October 6: Over the summer we invited one another to try out some new Green Habits, to reduce the environmental impact of our households and our daily lives. The Green Fair is an opportunity to share what has worked for you! We’ll have some tables set out where you can create some form of simple “show and tell” about what you did. We’ll also give out our Green Habit Challenge badges to those who completed 5 tasks from our list, between July and September. If you have something to share at the Fair but can’t attend, talk to Rev. Miranda; we’ll figure it out. Sign up in the Gathering Area to participate!

Blessing of the Animals Service, Sunday, October 6, 3pm: People and creatures are invited to a short service of song, story, and prayer.  Animals should be on a leash or in a carrier. Stuffed animals are welcome as well. Spread the word and invite a friend!

Madison-Area Julian Gathering Wednesday, October 9, 1:00 – 2:45 PM: St. Julian of Norwich: 14th Century heretic?  No, although a reader might at first think so.  14th Century psychologist?  Sort of . . . she understood the human heart and, through her sixteen revelations of Jesus, she understood the heart of God.  Thomas Merton called her “the greatest theologian for our time.”  Come to one of our monthly meetings and find out why — and learn about contemplative prayer.  We meet the second Wednesday of each month.  We’d love to see you.  For more information, contact Susan Fiore, ObJN.

Celebration of Life for Rich Roe, Saturday, Oct. 12, 1PM: The St. Dunstan’s family is invited by the Roe family to celebrate the life of Richard Roe at St. Dunstan’s Church on Saturday, Oct. 12, beginning at 1 p.m.  A reading of Rich’s poems will follow at 2 p.m.  Members of the parish who would like to contribute to a light reception should contact Connie Ott.

DIOCESAN CONVENTION VOLUNTEERS WANTED! Our diocese will hold its annual convention on Saturday, October 19, at the Madison Marriott West Hotel (over in Greenway Station). We need a few volunteers able to help with registration (7:30am – 11am) or counting ballots for our votes (8am – 3pm). Breakfast will be provided. People can do both things if you’re available and willing! Barb Klauber in the diocesan office promises to treat volunteers like royalty! If you can help out, contact Barb at  or (414) 272-3028 / ext. 111.  Thank you!

Sermon, Sept. 22

O God, the nations have come into your inheritance; they have defiled your holy temple; they have laid Jerusalem in ruins. They have given the bodies of your servants to the birds of the air for food, the flesh of your faithful to the wild animals of the earth. (Ps 79:1-2)

For the hurt of my poor people I am hurt, I mourn, and dismay has taken hold of me. Is there no balm in Gilead? Is there no physician there? Why then has the health of my poor people not been restored? (Jer 8: 21-22)

The book of the Prophet Jeremiah and Psalm 79 are texts of conquest and exile. 

Jeremiah was born around the year 626 before the birth of Jesus. The days of the great united Kingdom of Israel under King David were long past. The Assyrian Empire had conquered the northern region in 720. Judea, the territory around Jerusalem, remained nominally free, but fell under Assyria’s authority in 700, as part of their empire, forced to pay tribute and obey their rulers. When Assyria fell and Babylon arose, Judea got tangled up in a war between Babylon and Egypt, and then became part of Babylon’s growing empire. Judah revolted against Babylon, first in 598 and then again ten years later. Both times, Babylon won. And after the second revolt, in the year 587, they made sure there wouldn’t be a third one. The city walls were torn down, the great Temple burned. Most of the people of Jerusalem and Judea were killed or exiled. Those exiles, the survivors, struggling to build new lives in Babylon, had endured a decade of active military threat, and over a century of domination by external powers.  

The book of Jeremiah and Psalm 79 are  texts of trauma.

Trauma here refers both to shocking negative events that overwhelm one’s immediate capacity to cope, but also to the ways such events affect us for the short, medium and long term. These Biblical texts bear the marks of traumatizing violence, loss and displacement, as they tell the story of an event so pivotal in Jewish history that it is described in at least five different places in the Old Testament. 

The book of Jeremiah largely dates to the years before the conquest – the prophet is warning Judah and its leaders of their approaching doom, and begging them to change course. But Jeremiah’s prophetic mission extends into exile – and as his prophetic texts were gathered into a book during and after the exile, those ancient editors may have added their memories of devastation to the prophet’s oracles of warning. As for Psalm 79 – we think of the Psalms as coming from the time of David’s court, and some of them do; but others were written centuries later, like this one, which clearly describes the fall of Jerusalem – with a vividness that makes it hard to read. 

What does it mean to call these texts of trauma? What can we read from them, through that lens? First, it helps us understand this sometimes horrific imagery. One common after-effect of trauma is intense and intrusive memories, that may overwhelm the survivor at times. When our psalm speaks of blood poured out like water, or when Jeremiah speaks again and again about dead bodies scattered in the fields, food for carrion birds and wild animals, with no one left to bury them – I think that we are hearing the memories that haunt these survivors and shatter their sleep, even years afterwards. 

Understanding these as texts of trauma also helps make sense of the strong themes of guilt and shame. Excessive guilt is a common response to trauma. It’s actually a way to try and make sense of what happened, and why it happened, by assuming responsibility. As horrible as it is to think that a tragedy was my fault, it may be easier than thinking it was nobody’s fault. The book of Jeremiah spends a lot of time explaining the violence that has fallen upon Judah by describing their collective misdeeds and failures. The word “shame” appears 34 times in the book of Jeremiah, and the word “guilt” another 13 times. Just a few verses before today’s passage, the text says, “I will give their fields to conquerors, because from the least to the greatest everyone is greedy for unjust gain; from prophet to priest everyone deals falsely. They acted shamefully, they committed abomination; yet they were not at all ashamed, they did not know how to blush. Therefore they shall fall among those who fall. (Jeremiah 8, selected verses)

Not only the idea of Judah’s guilt, but the idea of God’s punishment, are cognitive tools for making sense of disaster. Scholar Kathleen O’Connor has written about trauma in the book of Jeremiah. She argues that making God the agent in the devastation of Judah means that neither the gods of Babylon – nor random, cruel Fate – have triumphed. Even in conquest, even in exile, Judah remains, as always, under the authority of its God. 

Holding onto a sense of God’s presence and power was important because trauma can shake or shatter your worldview and sense of who you are. Clinical psychology and trauma scholar Amy Mezulis says that violent loss “breaks past that… barrier that most of us have that says ‘This isn’t how the world works’ or that life is sacred.” After trauma, the world may feel unpredictable and unsafe.  It may feel impossible to engage with normal life events, or imagine a future. Life may feel hopeless and overwhelming, long after the actual traumatic events are over. Is there no balm in Gilead? Is there no physician who can heal my people? 

And yet… Trauma does not get the last word.  With support, and love, and time, and luck, people can heal. People can grow. They will always carry the mark of what they have been through. But they may be able to integrate it into a new sense of self and  world. I’m in tender territory here, which some of you know far more intimately than I do, and I’m speaking with humility. But the literature suggests there can be good outcomes for people who come through significant traumas, whether individually or as a group. They may arrive – with support, love, time, and luck – at a  stronger sense of connection with loved ones and community; and at a new sense of meaning and purpose. We can see this happening late in the Book of Jeremiah, and other books of the post-Exile period. Watch for that in the weeks ahead!

The exiles lost SO much – but they survived, and their faith survived. They discovered that God was not left behind in the ruins of the Jerusalem Temple. They began to see that God’s presence and promise and plan were bigger than any one nation or people. Kathleen O’Connor calls the book of Jeremiah a “survival manual” for how to maintain life, faith, and hope, after profound loss. 

What will you do when the end comes? The prophet Jeremiah asks that chilling question in chapter 5. What are the gifts of these texts of trauma? What will you do when the end comes?

We live in a time of impending crisis. It has a name: the Anthropocene. The epoch in which human activity is massively altering the conditions of life on earth. It’s characterized by dramatic, short-term, localized crises; and the slow, stealthy global crisis of climate change we all share. We have always had hurricanes, floods, droughts, blizzards. But climate change makes those systems more intense and destructive, and less predictable – like the intense hurricane drowning Houston this week, or the deadly flooding in Wisconsin last August. 

At the same time, the long-term, large-scale impacts are becoming more visible, bit by bit, if we pause to notice. Dan Zak writes in the Washington Post, “There is no crisis, just an accumulation of curiosities and irritants. Your basement now floods every year instead of every five or 10 years. Your asthma has gotten worse. You grew up wearing a winter jacket under your Halloween costume in Buffalo, and now your kids don’t have to. The southern pine beetle that once made its home closer to the equator is now boring through trees on Long Island… We freak out, but go about our business. The problem is clear, but it has yet to consume us.”

I recently read a journalist who covers climate change, David Roberts, reflecting on how our nation might respond to future mass traumas. He reflects on the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, and concludes that in that case, in hindsight, we did not respond terribly well. We let our rage and need for revenge – our shared trauma – lead us into endless and senseless wars; into tolerating surveillance that chipped away at our privacy and civil rights; into a demagogic and scapegoating mode of political discourse. Roberts writes, “Climate change is, above all, going to manifest as a series of traumas — storms, heat waves, food shortages, mass migrations, [and so on.] …Our only hope is to react to trauma with grace, compassion, and solidarity. That’s what I would like to tell the [teenagers] of the world: you are going to be tested, again and again. Don’t be like your parents. Don’t be small; don’t retreat behind tribal walls; don’t wallow in rage and self-righteousness. Be better. You have to be, or we’re all [screwed].” 

Today’s Gospel parable is one of the more perplexing of its kind. But it does show us one thing to do when the end is coming, when you’re about to lose everything – job, status, income, way of life all at once. The dishonest manager doesn’t despair, and he doesn’t run. Instead, he tries to build relationships, so that he isn’t facing an insecure and diminished future alone. What will you do when the end comes? 

Being a church-going Christian means a lot of things. One is that we’re in a living relationship with an ancient text. If you’ve been coming for even a few weeks and paying even some attention, you carry around inside you stories and songs and laments and advice and poetry that range from 2 to 4000 years old. That gives us a somewhat unusual historical perspective. As I told a friend this week: if NOTHING else, the Bible shows you that God’s people have been through some stuff. Our faith ancestors survived traumatic loss and epochal change. They had to come through struggle to new understandings of God and world and self. Maybe we can, too. Maybe the poetry of grief and perseverance that they left for us can give us courage to face this season in the life of the world. 

Because, writes Kate Marvel for On Being, courage is what we need for the days and years ahead. “I have no hope,” she says, “that these changes can be reversed. We are inevitably sending our children to live on an unfamiliar planet. But the opposite of hope is not despair. It is grief. Even while resolving to limit the damage, we can mourn. And here, the sheer scale of the problem provides a perverse comfort: we are in this together. The swiftness of the change, its scale and inevitability, binds us into one, broken hearts trapped together under a warming atmosphere. We need courage, not hope. Grief, after all, is the cost of being alive. We are all fated to live lives shot through with sadness, and are not worth less for it. Courage is the resolve to do well without the assurance of a happy ending….  [Because] here we are, together on a planet radiating ever more into space where there is no darkness, only light we cannot see.”

 

SOURCES

An overview of trauma: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK207191/

On mass trauma: https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.sciencenews.org/article/what-we-know-how-mass-trauma-affects-mental-health/amp

Walter Brueggemann review Kathleen O’Connor’s book on Jeremiah: https://www.christiancentury.org/reviews/2012-04/jeremiah-kathleen-m-o-connor

Dan Zak on climate change: https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/style/everything-is-not-going-to-be-okay-how-to-live-with-constant-reminders-that-the-earth-is-in-trouble/2019/01/24/9dd9d6e6-1e53-11e9-8b59-0a28f2191131_story.html

David Roberts’ thread on 9/11 and climate crises: https://twitter.com/drvox/status/1171915448088256512

Kate Marvel for On Being: https://onbeing.org/blog/kate-marvel-we-need-courage-not-hope-to-face-climate-change/

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